I knew as soon as I walked into the Ale House Pub for the Poetry Tuesdays venue I was going to have a good time. The place was packed, and I was told that was a slow night. Walking through the bar, twisting and turning through the maze of tables to get the table I wanted next to the stage, I had to fight the urge to bob my head and put a little extra sway to the hips to the beat of flowing soul coming from the speakers (compliments of DJ Jenius). The hardwood floor of the small stage reserved that night for performances was begging for soles of happy feet to dance upon it and display more bounce to the ounce as a mix of old school and contemporary hits mixed together and reverberated off the souls of a portion of our tired and wear society, searching for a reprieve from stress in the form of a beautiful microphone and the brilliant minds of Indianapolis’ finest poets.
The venue kicked off with Mike C (host) perfoming a Sleepy P original, and then Malik The Poet (cohost) and Chenzira Allen perfomed a collaboration that knocked the whole crowd’s socks off. Despite Malik being sick with a virus, he came from his diaphragm and pushed his stanzas from the soles of his feet. The entire piece was SO powerful. I also had the opportunity to see Chozen Vessel, Hypnotiq, Joshua “Beyond-Deep” Thomas, Unwritten Lines, and more. Once the hosts had worked their way through the majority of the open mic list, they brought up “Too Black”, the man everyone had come to see that night.
Too Black has b een writing since he was 12 years old in the sixth grade. “Once I realized I could rhyme words together it was over,” he said. Early in the school year that year, he had a Language Arts class that required him to write a piece of poetry with a specified amount of words rhyming within the piece. Too Black didn’t do well with the rhyming of words and did not receive an A because of it. Later that year, “a circuit sparked” in his brain and rhyming began to come naturally. At that age, he began to explore the art form of poetry. His explorations have become a journey. He began perfoming spoken word poetry in 2007 and is giving thought to laying his poetry down on tracks over music.
The first time I ever saw Too Black perform, he did a piece regarding being a student and the levels of his frustration with his job as a delivery guy for a pizza place. The entire piece tickled me with the bold and in your face realism. Some may find him offensive, I admire his realism and ability to put it into words the way he does. The piece was called “F***strated: The Middle Finger Poem”. When I asked Too Black the name of this piece, he told me and then laughed and said “Have fun censoring THAT!” As a Ball State University student delivering pizza who gets stiffed on tips and chased by dogs, you can’t imagine the masterpiece lying beneath the graphic title of this piece. After a bad day at work dealing with “rude and spiteful” cheapskates, Too Black wrote this piece “attempting to play Kanye West in ‘Spaceship’, which articulates the frustration of working a meaningless exploitative job where one’s human dignity is constantly demeaned and degraded”.
I asked Too Black what type of poet he would label himself (i.e. revolutionary, etc.) He responded that he is simply a poet who writes poetry. Any label others want to tag onto his body of work, or to him as a poet, would have to stem from the root that he is a poet before he is any “type” of poet. Due to the controversial sujects of Too Blacks work and the manner in which he presents it, he is fully aware that people will be tempted (and have already) slap a “revolutionary” label onto his forehead, but he feels as though the word revolution is commonly used out of it’s proper context, thus abused.
“People tend to romanticize over revolution as if it’s a fun activity that brings fame and fortune.” Too Black says that this is why we see Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ used as a marketing ploy to sell products, or hea the phrase “Fight the Power” used in reference to remedial activities such as not going to class as some sort of protest, but that lame line of thinking is fa fom the original meaning of the Public Enemy song.
Too Black quoted Malcolm X saying: “If you knew what a revolution was, you wouldn’t use that word.” Revolution is much more than words spoken over a microphone. Therefore, Too Black says he cannot attach “revolutionary” to himself simply because he steps on a stage criticizing a government that has rotted to the core or expressing the pain which masses of black people experience on a daily basis. He says it takes so much more than that. Revolution, according to Too Black, is a process that brings about a better quality of life to the masses of people that they do not experience under our current system. If Too Black is a Revolutionary Poet, he says he is an infant in the process.
When I asked Too Black if it is safe to say that white artists and poetry lovers may hear him spit lines regarding racism and leave his venues feeling as though he does not like them, he responded with: “If I am TOO BLACK (literal) for these white spoken word artists and so called poetry lovers, then maybe they WILL think I do not like them as white people. If they understood the larger context of what I’m saying about the world we live in, then maybe some self-reflection and introspection should take place.”
I asked him if he feels as though he is an “angry poet”. Too Black took it back to the foundation of simply being a poet who writes poetry. If he is angy, he expesses this. If he is happy, his ink smiles. He does, although, feel like as a Black Man in America, he has the right to be angry. He surveyed that a quick examination of Black History in America (i.e. slavery, lynching, Jim Crowe, biological warfare, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, etc.) will make anyone with a soul angry.
Too Black says his poetry speaks for more than just him, he says. His is the anger that others are apprehensive to express outwardly due to a society with eyes blinded by misunderstanding. As he says in one of his poems:
“They say I’m a racist for what I write on my pages./They say my fatal fanatical phrases/flagrantly enrages the white folks in the crowd,/but really they are just mad because/I’m saying what a lot of people is already thinking…out loud.”
Too Black performed several pieces at Poetry Tuesdays and was a definite hit with the highly interactive crowd. You can find a video of one of his performance’s here (Graphic Language Warning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SZUm6PFzN0. After he finished performing, a few more open mic artists hit the stage.
You can find Too Black on Facebook at: Too Black, and on Twitter at: tooblack8808.
Videos of other performances from that night can be found here: